- Mike DePrisco is the new CEO of the IMA, taking over from Jeff Thompson who led the organization for nearly 15 years.
- The IMA recently celebrated its 100th anniversary and aims to support and optimize the accounting profession while helping individuals achieve their career aspirations.
- Mike DePrisco has a background in higher education and previously worked at the Project Management Institute before joining the IMA.
- The IMA has over 140,000 members globally and focuses on providing competency, knowledge, and skills to drive business value in the finance and accounting field.
- AI is expected to have a significant impact on the accounting department, and the IMA aims to help its members navigate and leverage new technologies to create positive outcomes for organizations and society.
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GUEST: Mike DePrisco, President and CEO, IMA
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CFOTL: Hello, we’re speaking with Mike DePrisco, President and CEO of the IMA. Mike, welcome.
Michael DePrisco: Thank you, Jack. It’s good to be here.
CFOTL: Thank you for making time for us at this conference. I know it’s a busy day or three for you. Mike, we always begin by asking our guests to look back for us. Would you mind just looking back on your career and sharing with us some of the milestones you believe punctuated that path forward?
Michael DePrisco: Yeah, absolutely. Happy to do so. Jack, when I think about reflect on my career, I would characterize it as one that where I’ve spent about 30 years working in what I would call for purpose endeavors, organizations and roles. I spent about 17 years working in higher education in a variety of executive roles where I had the opportunity to help young people earn education, develop careers, get started in their career in a variety of different fields. And after doing that about 17, 20 years, and I was a college president for a number of years and so forth, I was looking for something different. I was looking for a career change. I was looking to stay in an environment in which I could make a difference through personal and professional development opportunities, education, training and so forth.Read More
And I found the professional association space and joined Project Management Institute, PMI, which is one of the leaders in the project management space, and joined the organization in 2013 and performed a number of executive leadership roles throughout my career there. And most recently as chief operating officer and interim CEO, and more recently was looking for a new opportunity and found IMA. And again, it fits very nicely with my career goals, what I’ve done. And I’m very excited about the opportunity at IMA. It’s a great organization. I’m meeting great people. A great mission in terms of helping individuals achieve their career aspirations while also supporting and optimizing the profession of accounting.
CFOTL: We do want to find out how you plan to lead this organization, but I’m always surprised what our earliest career chapters sort of reveal about ourselves. How might your earliest chapter have influenced your path forward?
Michael DePrisco: I originally went to school to be a high school teacher. I was going to be a history teacher. And as I went through that process, I realized I didn’t think I wanted to spend every day in front of 14 and 15 year olds. So I went into graduate school and started to think about a career in helping professions and working with college kids and helping them grow, learn, and do something with their lives. Because I was impacted by a lot of mentors along the way who took me under their wing and helped me make the career choices that I ultimately made. I was a kid that grew up in the city. I wasn’t supposed to go to college. I really started to learn at a young age the importance of connecting with people, of listening to people, communicating and being genuine and authentic in interactions.
And I’ll tell you, as I progressed through my career, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to reach into that toolkit of soft skills to help navigate some pretty complex situations, big organization transformations, big organization restructuring. People don’t want to hear about your technical capability during those critical times, they want to know you’re there to support them, that you’re championing the change, that you’re giving them permission to try things, to experiment. It’s okay to fail, just learn from it. I always tell my people, when you’re feeling uncomfortable, then you know you’re getting ready to learn something. So when that discomfort comes, lean into it, because that’s how you learn and that’s how you get to the other side.
And I got to tell you, again, getting through some of those big transformational change, there are many times you’re really stressed out. You’re wondering how you’re going to get through this project. Ultimately, it comes down to talking to individuals, being authentic with individuals, listening to individuals. You break through some of that fear, that discomfort that’s out there. And it’s oftentimes just the perception. The reality is people are all feeling the same thing. And the more you can lean into that, I think the more effective you can be.
CFOTL: Well, I think we’re catching up with you, your first 90 days. Is that correct?
Michael DePrisco: Yeah. Yeah. Actually 73 days, Jack, 73 days.
CFOTL: So tell us what you make of the finance and accounting world here, because you have a point of comparison when it comes to professional development. And is there something that surprised you, something that sets them apart, do you think?
Michael DePrisco: I’ll say this. I think that one of the things that really attracted me to IMA… Well, two things. One is it’s community. It’s clear you have a passionate, committed community of individuals that really care about the profession, that contribute to the profession, and that have really made some terrific gains in bringing awareness to the value that accounting and finance professionals play in organizations. And as an organization leader for the last 20, 30 years of my career, I have seen that firsthand.
I have partnered with accounting and finance professionals day in and day out and recognize how important they are in helping to inform those key strategic decisions that need to be made day in and day out in an organization, helping to assess risk, helping to understand the data behind the numbers, the story that’s ultimately behind the numbers that are being presented. And I have a great deal of respect and appreciation and admiration for the work they do. So coming here to me was just a natural move for me because again, I completely understand and support the notion of accounting and finance professionals being business partners and helping leaders and organizations unlock business value.
CFOTL: So maybe you can share with us, as you look forward, the role that IMA plays in finance and accounting professionals, the lives of the finance and accounting professional. How is it likely to change or evolve in the coming years?
Michael DePrisco: Well, I think, certainly for those that are familiar with professional associations, and IMA in particular, I mean, we are a hundred year old organization, and I think we’ve been on the cutting edge of helping the profession evolve, to grow, to advance through our thought leadership, through research, through our learning offerings, through our advocacy work, through our certifications and so on. And over time, we’ve had to continue to stay current with what’s happening in business, how it’s changing, how it’s evolving, what is needed, what do the practitioners working in organizations need to stay relevant, current and so forth. And we spend a lot of time working with organization leaders, our board of directors, other key stakeholders to really keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening. So we’ve done that throughout our a hundred year career.
And I think now more than ever, with the disruption that we see in the world, with some of the big challenges that the world is facing, I think IMA is uniquely positioned to continue to play that key role in helping organizations, practitioners develop the skills they need to meet the challenges of the future, whether it’s tackling issues of ESG, sustainability, DE&I, data analytics, disruptive technology and so forth. That is what IMA exists to do to ensure that we’re bringing the latest and greatest information, tools, education to our practitioners so that they can have confidence in performing the roles they’re performing in their organization.
CFOTL: One of the characteristics of this conference I find interesting is the breadth of industries that the membership attending here represent. You can go to different conferences held by technology companies, but very often the attendees are also tech. That’s not the case here. You’ve got quite a representation of different industries. Is that likely to change or evolve that membership industry mix?
Michael DePrisco: Yeah. Yeah. So way back when, mostly cost accounting and the manufacturing industry, and I think we have evolved as businesses has changed and the needs of stakeholders has changed in the organizations, we have become much more broad in our focus and our reach and our impact and so forth. And it is, you could see it on full display here. We have members, number one, all over the world now, about 140,000 members. And they represent really any industry that you can think of. It’s accounting and business, it’s finance and business. And every organization needs qualified, competent experienced accounting and finance people to make sure it runs effectively. So you’ll see people here from medical, from consulting services, from construction, from manufacturing, from healthcare, from all kinds of industries. And I think that’s what really makes a conference like this special, because you inevitably are going to be connecting with individuals that maybe have the same role as you, but it’s in a different industry. And you can always learn what’s happening and pick up little nuggets of information that you can then take back to your office and a apply in your day-to-day role.
CFOTL: Yeah. Now, you mentioned a membership of 140,000, and I know that it’s expanded globally over the last 10 years. What the mission globally, and it makes us wonder what the value to the membership ultimately is when you have such a global membership is probably key. But I’m going to let you answer the question. Why? What’s the value, a global organization, now that you… There’s a lot of time spent overseas building this. I know, so.
Michael DePrisco: Yeah. Well, first and foremost, I think there’s a need. And as the world becomes more globally distributed, I think you find multinational organizations are setting up shop all over the world. COVID has really accelerated people moving all over the world to work and to contribute to various communities and so forth and so on. And I think the beauty of accounting and finance, it’s a common language. We know it works. And organizations, regardless of where you are, if you’re in Singapore, India, the US, Latin America, Europe, you’re looking for people that have a certain level of competency, knowledge, information, skill, experience that can help drive business value.
And everyone, regardless of where you live, you’re looking for ways to improve outcomes for your organization, which in turn will contribute to better societies, better communities, and really tackling the biggest challenges that really impact everyone, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s food scarcity, whether it’s water issues and so forth. These are big issues that affect everybody around the world. So to the extent that we can share what we know with others around the world. And high tide lifts all boats, I think it’s incumbent upon organizations to have that responsibility. And as a nonprofit organization, as an organization that’s focused on doing good for organizations, societies, and people, I believe it’s the right place to be for IMA.
CFOTL: Now, I want to touch on AI with you. Today, few people doubt AI will have a sizeable impact on the accounting department of most businesses. It’s already having a sizable impact, some people would tell us. What can IMA members expect from the association as they try to contemplate that future career path?
Michael DePrisco: Well, one is, I’m glad it came up because there hasn’t been a conversation that’s happened in the past six to 12 months that didn’t include AI or ChatGPT, Jack. So thank you. We checked the box there. But no, I think that, look, over the past 100 years, think about all the technology advancements that have happened and we’ve had to adjust and adapt, and we will. And it’s basically what we’re seeing are more tools, more advancements that ultimately people need to figure out how to harness. And at the end of the day, use it in a way that’s going to create a value that’s going to contribute to positive outcomes for society, for organizations and so forth. It’s going to mean that people’s jobs are going to change, but I still think net net, we’re going to need people. We’re still going to need people.
You need people that can interpret data from all this new technology that’s coming out to ensure that there isn’t bias in the algorithms that we’re using to generate some of the findings that come out of all this really robust technology. You need people to communicate, to connect, to solve problems. AI, I don’t think it’s figured out how to do that just yet. So I don’t think… Yeah, sure. Is it going to help with productivity and efficiency? Great. Yeah. And is it going to allow individuals maybe to use their time better so they don’t have to focus on mundane types of tasks? Yeah, that’s great. That’s good. But I think it opens up even more opportunities for individuals like accounting and finance professionals to think more strategically, to think more about how they can deliver outcomes, value, versus getting caught in some of the administrative elements of the work.
CFOTL: Michael DePrisco, thank you for making time for us at day two of the IMA 2023 conference here in Minneapolis.
Michael DePrisco: Thank you, Jack.
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